September 21

Florida group homeworker arrested for leaving someone with Down syndrome to die in a hot van while dozing: sheriff

On May 9, a Pinellas Crossroads worker, identified as 26-year-old Joshua Russell, nursed a man with Down syndrome and took him back to his group home after visiting the hospital. On the way back from the hospital, Russell decided to stay at his home and left 35-year-old John Lappoint in the van.

In his own home, Russell ate krat. Russell told MPs that he took the substance to “feel more alert.”

Taking kratom, Russell jumped into the van again and continued moving. On the way back, Russell felt tired and nauseous. Then he parked the van in the driveway, turned off the car, and took a nap.

Russell later woke up from the heat of the van, drenched in sweat and noticed that Lappoint was not breathing.

According to Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, Russell tried artificial respiration but was unable to revive Lapointe.

Russell, who was armed, called his mother and told her that he was going to commit suicide after realizing what he had just done. His mother told Russell that he shouldn’t kill himself.

His mother called 911 and the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office replied that they were on 82nd Avenue just off Oakhurst Road in Seminole.

When the deputies arrived at the scene, the paramedics had already pronounced Lapoant’s death, and Russell left the site on foot and was armed. When the MPs found Russell, the 26-year-old told them he was going to commit suicide.

In the end, the deputies managed to take Russell into custody. Sheriff Gualtieri said the temperature inside the van at the time of Lappoint’s death was about 125 degrees.

“You know this poor guy got baked in that car, that’s what happened,” Gualtieri said.

Russell is charged with aggravated manslaughter of a disabled adult.

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